language barrier

The Babel of Queens, NY

A quick overlook into the most diverse urban area in the world



The borough of Queens in New York City is considered is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. Experts believe that around 138 languages can be spoken the in the area that is the second most populated of NYC with its 2,2 million inhabitants (the first one if Brooklyn with 2,5M, according to the 2010 Census).

The county englobes 27% of New York City's population of 8.2 M people. The U.S. Census Bureau reports its population is composed of 50% white, 28% Hispanic, 24% Asian, 21% black, and 3% mixed race. Almost half (48%) of Queens residents are foreign-born, and 56% speak a language other than English at home. 


Source: Queens Library

Source: Queens Library

At home, 56% of the population 5 years and over speaks a language other than English. Among the 5 boroughs, Queens is also the one with the hights number of residents who consider their English as less than "very well." Out of the 56% we just mentioned, only half (28%) speak English well. The other half speaks mainly Spanish (44%), followed by Asian and Pacific Island Languages (28%), and Indo-European Languages (25%).


Source: Queens Library

Source: Queens Library

The Low Ratio of Nationally Certified Medical Interpreters

The lack of qualified professionals to do medical translations is concerning, article shows.



According to an article published on Emergency Physicians, the number of Nationally Certified Medical Interpreters is only 3,000 in a universe of almost 30 million LEP patients. That means only 1 interpreter for every 10,000 patients, states Olivia Norrmén-Smith and Raviraj Patel in "Lost in Translation? Here is the map".

Even though some Hospitals may have their own internal qualification and allocation processes for interpreters, according to the article, "residents nonetheless reported great difficulty in accessing qualified in-person interpretation through approved channels."This is concerning, once the quality of healthcare of these patients relies on a good communication skill. Misunderstandings may lead to errors that could be even fatal in the worst case scenario.  

Olivia explains that the difficulties in obtaining a good certified professional, in many cases, leads to the use of unqualified interpreters or even family members. "Residents reported feeling “frustrated” and “powerless” or doing more guesswork, testing, and omitting conversations", concludes.

Read the full article HERE.

The Triple Threat in Healthcare for LEP Patients


Quality of care involves not just good facilities, and professionals. In order to provide a great service to the patients, it is critical to have good communication skills as well. That's what states the article "Language Differences as a Barrier to Quality and Safety in Health Care: The Joint Commission Perspective" by Paul M. Schyve.

Originally published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the article points some of the reasons that might keep physicians away from effectively communicating. Here they are:

(1) the language barrier, 
(2) the cultural differences, 
(3) and the low health literacy. 

When a patient has a very limited English and the physician, on the other hand, does not speak a second language, these three factors converge and create what we call-  THE THREE THREATS. According to Dr. Paul M. Schyve, these factors decrease the quality of healthcare of patients. 

Read the full article HERE.